Texas Rules for Jobs

The state's job market has stayed surprisingly healthy.

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Check out this map of year-over-year job gains/losses by county and you'll notice one thing as you head into 2009--the nation's face is splotchy with red job cuts, but Texas counties stay suprisingly blue. (There's a little twist on political shades for you).

The Slate map shows, for example, Hidalgo County gained more than 7,900 jobs between February 2008 and February 2009. Midland, Starr, Webb, and Maverick counties are up, along with plenty of others.

Forbes' research for the best cities for jobs (or "least worst" in this economy) bore out one thing: Texas rules. The state tops the rankings of cities both big and small, filling 8 of the top 20 spots. From Forbes:

Further, the top five large metropolitan areas for job growth--Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Ft. Worth and Dallas--are all in Texas' "urban triangle."

The reasons for the state's relative success are varied. A healthy energy industry is certainly one cause. Many Texas high-fliers, including Odessa, Longview, Dallas and Houston, are home to energy companies that employ hordes of people--and usually at fairly high salaries for both blue- and white-collar workers. In some places, these spurts represent a huge reversal from the late 1990s. Take Odessa's remarkable 5.5% job growth in 2008, which followed a period of growth well under 1% from 1998 to 2002.

Texas' unemployment rate was 6.5 percent in February compared with a national average of 8.1 percent. While states like Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming maintained unemployment rates even below 5 percent, Texas' rate was still well below those of other large states, such as California, Florida, and Illinois.

FYI: The Labor Department releases state and local unemployment figures for March tomorrow.

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